As lockdown rules slowly start to ease across the UK, people now are allowed to meet in groups for the first time since late March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that in England, up to six people from different households would be allowed to meet outdoors - in private gardens or parks - at a distance.

In Scotland, people can also meet outdoors with another household in groups of up to eight. However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added that guests should not enter other people's homes, for instance to use the toilet.

In Wales, people from two different households are now able to meet outside.

And in Northern Ireland, up to six friends can now gather outdoors, as long as social distancing is observed.

In all countries, indoor get-togethers of family members from different households are still not allowed.

Following the easing of restrictions - these are some rules, tips and ideas for keeping everybody safe at your next socially-distanced meeting.

Establish ground rules

Before you meet with friends and family, you may want to discuss what precautions you'd like to take, and what risks all members may be comfortable - or uncomfortable - with taking.

Some more vulnerable members of the group may want to be overly cautious, while younger, healthier members may be more willing to take risks.

Establishing which safety measures the group will be taking beforehand will avoid any discomfort or awkward conversations at the meeting itself.


Keep everything outdoors where possible

Currently, the rules stipulate that meetings should not take place indoors for safety reasons, so stick to gardens, parks and other public areas.

However, it's possible that guests may need to use the toilet when visiting someone else's garden.

In this case, chief medical officer Chris Whitty has confirmed that it would be acceptable for guests to go inside to use the toilet as long as they washed their hands thoroughly afterwards and wiped down any surfaces they touched.

If going through a house to get to the garden is necessary, experts recommend guests wearing a mask while indoors and avoiding touching any surfaces.


Keep your distance

It's important to keep your distance from people who do not belong to your household when at a small gathering.

Current UK advice states that you should stay at least two metres away from others.

If you have a hard time visualising how far this is, it's around the length of a bed, two shopping trolleys, or about three steps.

If you'd like to be extra cautious, you could of course bring a measuring tape or length of rope to establish a safe distance at your meeting.


Avoid sharing

If you're planning a barbecue or picnic with friends or family, try to avoid sharing cutlery or touching food that others may have touched - and that means no double-dipping.

If you're hosting, you may want to think ahead of time about what to serve and how to serve it  to minimise risk. As a guest, you could offer to bring your own cutlery, cups or even food.


Masks, wipes and sanitiser

If you're meeting in a public place, it may be difficult or even impossible to practice thorough hand washing - so make sure to bring hand sanitiser and/or wipes with you.

Masks can also help minimise the risk of transmission, so you may want to consider wearing one during your meeting.